I don’t know how I got talked into writing this blog. I’m not a blogger, my spelling is horrible (even with spell check), and I hate talking about myself. Surprise!
But- I will make myself super uncomfortable if it means some young lady will learn from some of the mistakes I’ve made, or find encouragement in my journey! In the era of social media, it can appear that everyone’s life is perfect ,and everyone is successful, and everyone is happy.
News flash- everyone uses a filter! HA!
Starting a business is hard, very hard. Walking away from the safety net of corporate America, complete with assistants, and corporate cards, and bi weekly direct deposits is like jumping off the tallest building in the world with no parachute. Just a dream and a prayer!
In taking this leap of faith, there have been many, many failures and some incredible wins. Those failures became lessons – some of which I’m still learning and applying. All of it is what makes the jump so very worth it!
Some of the lessons that have shaped how I deal with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship (is that a word??) are:
1. All Money Aint Good Money- It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of- “Secure the Bag”!!!
I quickly had to realize that some opportunities, although the check is good, can hurt more than help.Some opportunities were destined for failure.Everything about it said- “Don’t do it AA. No matter how good you think you are, this will not work”.….. and I took the check anyway!SMH.
Partly thinking I was God and could do the impossible, but a big part of it was the money.In the end, that loss was on my record…. my company’s record.Nobody cared that the music sucked, the artist was uninspired, and the team was in disarray.The only thing people remember, or at least I remember, is that this was an Ayars Agency project that failed, and I knew better.Before taking on a project or client, think about the effect it will have on your brand, your company’s brand.Ask yourself if you had to work on the project for free, would you still do it? Now, I’d rather buy one less bag, one less shoe, one less dinner out for the month, to avoid taking an “empty” check.All money aint good money sis!
2. Network across and not up – I used to make a list of the people I needed to meet and network with every month. Such and such on the Power 40, such and such in AdAge, such and such who’s the new VP of this…. Blah blah blah. I’d go to the conferences, and dinners, and charity events, and all the functions, just to be the 739th person passing my card to them and given a promise to “connect soon”.
I hated it!!And if you know me you know I’m not the warm and fuzzy kind of girl, so this was hell for me.So I stopped!I began to look at where most of my support, encouragement, and opportunities came from.99% of those opportunities came from my peers.My friends, former co-workers, assistants, coordinators, etc.They were the ones who knew me best, were passionate about my success, knew my skill set, knew my goals, and knew how position me to whoever needed my services.
They were the ones referring me to clients, talking up my business, passing my card to someone.Network across, not up. The person sitting next to you, not the person in the magazine, or on the stage, will likely bring you your next opportunity.
3. Maximize and Monetize – Tunnel vision isn’t always good. My career history has been marketing at Record Labels, so when I left the label side, my focus was making labels my clients. I had the relationships, knew the label systems, the lingo, the ropes. But I was limiting myself. I was comfortable! But- the only way for this side hustle to turn into a real business was for me to really think about my skill set, and how I could apply it to different industries. How can I use my marketing skills, relationships with talent, and understanding of urban culture, and apply it to film and TV, tech, politics, live experiences, etc. It’s something I have to be mindful of and work on every day. Which brings me to the next lesson…..
4. If you treat your business like a side hustle, then it will treat you the same way- I started The Ayars Agency while still holding a full time job. It was my side hustle. It was a way to learn more about the business and challenge myself outside of what had become a routine of calendars, and budgets, and meetings. So when it was my sole source of income I had to treat it as such. The first couple of months I was waking up late, going to the mall, hanging out with my retired mom, hanging with my friends, etc.. All of the things I couldn’t do when I was glued to a desk or stuck in meetings all day. Then I started looking at my bank statements, and had to check myself real quick. I had to understand that I could only eat what I killed! Every day! And if I didn’t dedicate everyday to being a killer, the idea of The Ayars Agency would die. I had to operate the same way I did while working for someone else- times 200! I wake up at 6, work out (sometimes), and by 8 am I’m in GO mode. Monday through Friday like clock work,. Sundays are spent reading or finding some type of creative inspiration for whatever I’m working on. But everyday all day I have to think like a killer.
5. The last and MOST important lesson of all is- Give yourself permission to live a WHOLE life – the entertainment business is a real business, but it’s not your real life. Your family, friends, lover (ha), life experiences….. that’s your real life. If your self worth is found in your title, or latest work accomplishment, or a check, YOU AREN’T LIVING. Because the tides change, there won’t always be success, and you don’t want to be left without a chair when the music stops!!! I remember giving my life to my job, going in early, leaving late, weekends, holidays, missing important moments with my family…. Then when an artist would leave, or get dropped, or an album didn’t do well, I felt empty, I would make myself physically sick! Their lives went on, they got new deals, started new businesses, and here I was with nothing to show for it.
Bonus- Instagram will have you looking at the next person like- she just got this new client, he just got this big check, they just sold their company for this…. Etc, etc, etc. It will drive you crazy. This is something I have to remind myself every day! Stay YOUR course, focus on YOUR goal! What God has for you is for you! Your life and journey is ordained. Your steps are ordered.
Breathe and then go be a killer!
I hope in some way you can use my mistakes, failures, lessons, successes, and journey and apply it to how you see fit.